GPs and their staff are ‘health care heroes’ : Derry Colr. condemns abuse of staff

GPs and their staff should be recognised as health care heroes alongside other health service workers.

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 10:02 am

That’s what Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle called for when he spoke in support of GPs and their surgery staff at a meeting of Derry and Strabane’s Council, stating that many have been subject to growing abuse during the pandemic.

Colr. Doyle referred to a Motion that was passed at Full council in June which moved ‘that this Council supports the rights of our citizens to get one to one access to GP Services’.

The Motion called for council to ‘write to the Dept of Health, Minister Swann and the British Medical Association Chairman Dr Tom Black, to immediately change this policy that is blocking access to many in this City and District to life saving services that are currently being denied’.

Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle.

Colr. Doyle said: “I do have an issue with this Motion that was put through as someone who has worked with senior clinicians in a previous life. 

“I’m sure it wasn’t the intention of the proposer to give the impression that GPs and their staff are sitting in surgeries twiddling their thumbs during this period because nothing could be further from the truth. Of GPs that I know personally, some have never been as busy and they continue to give more and more time to their patients, whether that be administering vaccines or continuing to manage chronic illness and patients with multiple core mobilities in an environment where their cohorts  are smaller and their lists are bigger. GPs didn’t close their surgeries and fly off on holidays at the start of this pandemic, the Executive, represented by parties in this Chamber, mandated that they reduce footfall due to social distancing to keep people safe. When we talk about health care heroes, we include GPs in that. They are doing their best, as are their staff, and the letter we received from the Royal College passionately outlines their commitment to their patients in difficult times.

“Furthermore I have been informed that the abuse GPs and their staff are receiving from a minority of people over the phone and in person, due to a number of things as a result of the global pandemic is growing.

The message has to go out loud and clear from this virtual Chamber that abuse towards medical, nursing and practice staff, for any reason, is absolutely unacceptable. GPs didn’t agree not to see patients and we have to be open and honest about that as well as acknowledging that there have been some difficulties. I have no problem with us raising issues when standards fall short or where there have been problems but we are in a global pandemic and the Executive, not doctors, instituted social distancing. Services are not being denied, they are restricted through no fault of GPs and their staff and I want to propose an amendment to the recommended Motion.”

Chair, Mayor, Alderman Graham Warke explained the amendment could not be accepted, with the City solicitor Philip Kingston confirming. Colr. Doyle accepted the clarification saying; “I think it’s important to put on record that there is no policy blocking access to many to GP services and it is due to social distancing and we should acknowledge and recognise that GPs and their staff are health care heroes as well as others.”

By Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter